Bob Probert was known as an "enforcer" in the game of hockey. The guy who had your back.
If an opposing player started something, Probert was there to exact a penalty on the other player with his fists.
He played in the NHL for sixteen seasons, including a long stint with the Detroit Red Wings.
Probert died last year at the age of 45 after suffering chest pains.
The New York Times published a piece this morning on the discovery that Probert suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - a brain trauma disease that has also been found in many former NFL players.
After learning about CTE, Probert told his wife he wanted his brain donated to researchers.
Probert's widow, Dani Probert, is quoted in the Times article:
"I remember joking with him, ‘Wouldn’t your brain make a nice specimen?’ ” she said. “He started questioning whether he would have it himself. He told me that he wanted to donate his brain to the research when he died. Who would have thought that six months later it would be happening?"
His brain was donated after his death last year.
Researchers at Boston University said they found evidence of CTE in Probert's brain.
One of the researcher's noted they couldn't isolate where Probert's exposure to head trauma came from:
“How much is the hockey and how much is the fighting, we don’t really know,” said Dr. Robert Cantuco-director of the Boston University center and a prominent neurosurgeon in the area of head trauma in sports. “We haven’t definitely established that the skills of hockey as a sport lead to a certain percentage of participants developing C.T.E. But it can happen to hockey players, and while they’re still relatively young.”
Probert's wife believes it came from all the checking and hits in the game itself. She did note that in his last years, Probert did show signs of "behavior uncharacteristic to him, especially memory loss and a tendency to lose his temper while driving."
Wherever the brain trauma came from, the NHL will likely take a closer look at protecting its players, the same way the NFL has been creating new rules to cut down on head trauma in its sport.
If they're successful in better protecting their players, the sports have reporters from the New York Times to thank.
Times reporters, like Alan Schwartz, have been exposing the effects of head trauma in sports for the last several years.